Thursday, June 30, 2011

How we get going

A week ago I got stuck about where to go in my W.I.P. I procrastinated, of course, but nothing I did helped me. So I thought about what I did that would always give me ideas. Then I remembered when I was younger, I'd always go out to our backyard and jump on our trampoline. I'd spin all types of stories about fairies with flower names fighting off evil, and girls baking muffins in their cottages that attracted the princes to their door, resulting in their royal marriage.

Wondering if it worked again, I went out to the trampoline and started jumping. Sure enough, within minutes I had the next chapter all lined up in my head and ready to be written. Now, I go outside nearly every day to start thinking about what I'll be writing that day. I'd always heard that exercise gets the creative ideas flowing, but I never really believed it until now.

Is there anything you do before you write to get going?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fixed vs. Growth

For the upcoming fall, I'm going to be a peer mentor for the freshman coming into BYU. I've been doing training for the past few weeks where they give all the peer mentors articles to read and sometimes a video to watch. Last week we had to read an excerpt from Dr. Carol S. Dweck's book Mind.

In this excerpt she talks about success and how our mindset about it can determine how far we go in life. Dr. Dweck says that there are two kinds of mindsets: fixed and growth. In a fixed mindset, one believes that the first results are the final ones. If you're smart, you're smart, and if not, nothing will change that. They will often stay at a level they're comfortable with, play it safe. Rather than go into a class with more rigorous curriculum, they'll stay where they know that they'll succeed. They don't want to look stupid in front of others. The other mindset is the growth mindset. These people believe that everyone has the capability to grow and become better. They strive for what's difficult in order to become excellent at what they do. They don't see a failure as their set path in life. They look for the solution to make them better. As a result, they grow.

This really made me consider what kind of mindset I have. Dr. Dweck says that most people have a mix of mindsets, and I believe that I do. But now that I'm aware of this, I want to adapt a mindset of growth. Because, we all know it, writing is a tough business to get into. I haven't heard of one person who wrote a book in one draft, sent a query letter to their top agent of choice, and was signed on the next day as a client, then in eighteen months became a NYT bestselling author. More often authors talk about that first book that couldn't get an agent, and the dozens of agents that rejected their work, and the book that got published, but was never made into a blockbuster movie.

I want a growth mindset. I want to be able to look at all of these challenges in the eye and stare them down. I want to be able to hone my craft, take on the rejections, and get better from them. I feel like I'm just barely putting my foot on this path, but at least now I know how I want to walk down it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Book Review: Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Title: Princess of the Midnight Ball
Author: Jessica Day George
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: Young Adult (fantasy)
Why I read it/how I found it: Jessica Day George had been to a few of events I'd gone to as well, so I thought it was about time I read something of hers. Plus, I love fairy tales.

Returning home from the war, young Galen finds work with his mother’s family in the royal gardens. There he learns that the king’s twelve daughters have a secret: every night they dance their shoes to tatters, but no one knows how or why. When prince after prince tries and fails to find the answer, and the family is haunted by accusations of witchcraft, Galen decides to help. Armed with a pair of silver knitting needles and an invisibility cloak given to him by a strange old woman, he follows the princesses and unlocks the secret of their curse.

Review: I really loved the fact that this is based on a fairy tale you don't hear too much about, especially in retellings. There are oodles of Cinderella retellings out there, but a book dedicated to the Twelve Dancing Princesses you don't hear much about. From what I do know about the fairy tale, this stuck to it pretty well--the twelve dancing princesses with worn out shoes, the evil king/sorcerer, the princes who failed in discovering the secret and the common man who succeeded. It stuck much more closely than the works of Gail Carson Levine. Yet it's more than just a telling of the story. Each character is given depth, and the stakes are higher with the country just coming back from war, and the world is built so very fully. I did wish for a bit more background on the war and why they went at it for so long anyway to give the king a bit more sympathy. But overall, this is a magical read. I'm planning on suggesting it to my younger cousin.

Other information: You can find Jessica Day George's website here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Minor Characters

I started making up my post for my Top Ten minor characters, only I came to a halt after a while because I found myself wanting to repeat a lot of books with my favorite minor characters. Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Pride and Prejudice, these were pretty much the only books that my favorite minor characters are in. Perhaps not coincidentally, these books are also a few of my all-time favorites.

It's pretty easy for writers to flesh out the few main people we spend the book with. But for J.K. Rowling to have our hearts torn out at Dobby's death, or Suzanne Collins to have our sympathy reached for Finnick when we hear his past, or Jane Austen to have us anxiously waiting for Mr. Bennet's next humorous line--this is real talent, and what separates a good book from a great one. When every character, no matter how small, is as meaningful and alive as the protagonist and their close sidekicks, mentors, enemies, and love interests, I think that is a huge sign that this book will be memorable.

I wish I had a formula for making a minor character memorable and beloved, but I'm still searching for it myself. One thing I do think about it, though, is that stereotypes for meaningful minor characters (not just the old man on the bus without a name) is not the way to go. Make them as fresh and interesting as the main characters, with something just as unique about them as the protagonist.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What's there to love?

The other day I was having a conversation with my friend about Tangled. Now please don't take this the wrong way, because I love Tangled. But I said the reason why I enjoyed other Disney movies more was because I couldn't comprehend why Flynn and Rapunzel fell for each other. I mean, Flynn seems pretty unimpressed with Rapunzel and even she's not swept off her feet right away by him. I know they have that conversation after the big chase with the near-drowning, but it still didn't stick with me why they would fall in love because of that. I found no basis to their love. Of course, maybe now I'm just an older English major with way too much time to analyze movies meant for children fifteen years younger than me.

But this leads me to ask, what's there to love?

I think, when it comes to attraction of couples and making them realistically fall in love, these basic points are crucial:
  • Humor. I haven't met one person who hasn't said they want to marry someone who can make them laugh, or that their significant other makes them laugh. Even in an angsty romance, there has to be some light times when they can just laugh, otherwise they'll end up miserable together in the end.
  • Similarity. As much as they say "opposites attract" you don't get a devout Fundamentalist Christian and a hard-core Wiccan dating. There has to be some sort of common ground or trait in order for the couple to really have a basis for their relationship. It doesn't have to be huge, just something.
  • Opposites. Because contrary to the point above, opposites do attract. I just have to look at my parents for that kind of confirmation. I think that the opposite part is more that they complete one another, as cheesy as that sounds. But if one lacks a trait, with the other person filling it, they make more compatible together in the long run.
  • Standing out. They need to do something that makes the other notice them. My roommate's boyfriend actually shared with her a list of things that made her stand out from other girls, and they were little things, but they were enough for him.
What do you think? What points are important to developing a great literary couple?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Scrapping it

This weekend I reviewed my W.I.P. and realized that of what I have down so far, I'm not going to be keeping. I believe in the story, the characters, the plot. I love it and I want to continue it, I don't want to give up. So I'm storing away what I have so far and starting new.

At first, I was discouraged about the prospect of starting over again. But then I remembered that back at the Utah Festival of Books when Kiersten White spoke, she brought up a new manuscript she has and how she wrote 100 pages in, and started over twice because the first two times she wasn't telling it right. I figured if a published author has done this, then it's probably not such a terrible thing that I am, too.

That's how I feel about my W.I.P. I don't think I wrote it the right way at first. I wrote it straight through as it'll read in its finished form, when as I actually write it, I need to write *gulp* out of order. That's going to be a fun adventure for me, since I've always written linearly.

So today I finish up my finals, and packing, and cleaning, and tomorrow I start heading home for summer break, where I fully intend to make my dad worry about how much time I'm spending in my room writing.

Have you ever had to completely restart a manuscript?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Versitile Blogger Award

Thank you Kristin Lynn Thetford for my second blog award!
The rules for this award are:
  • Thank and link to the person who nominated me.
  • Share seven random facts about myself.
  • Pass the award along to 5 new-found blogging buddies.Contact those buddies to congratulate them.
Number one--check. Now for number two. You get seven more random facts about me.
  1. My mom only made homemade frosting when I was growing up, so I hate the stuff from the can.
  2. I hardly ever take pictures and I avoid being in them.
  3. I read through The Little House on the Prairie for the first time with my mom.
  4. I played volleyball from the time I was 12, but I never learned to serve under-hand because my coaches would never teach me.
  5. I have an older sister, and older brother, and a younger brother.
  6. I can bend my fingers back to a 90 degree angle, which I just found out is actually kinda freaky.
  7. I say "like" more than I care to admit--it's the Californian girl in me.
Ok, so now 5 of my new-found blogger friends that I pass this award along to:
  1. Genius Bordering Insanity
  2. Christina's Writing Buzzz...
  3. Awkward Girl
  4. All about them words
  5. Writing at High Altitude
Thanks again Kristin for the awesome award! :D

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Winner of The Maze Runner

Congratulations to Marissa for winning the signed copy of The Maze Runner! I'm sending you an email with information. You have 48 hours to reply.

Thanks everyone who participated! I have a few more giveaways planned that are just as awesome, so be sure to hang on the next couple of weeks for more chances to win some sweet stuff.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

This is not a book review...

So this week I had a freak-out. The job I have for the fall when I come back to school I have to maintain a GPA of 3.4. I started to worry about my B's and thought I could only afford to get one B and two of my other classes had to be A's. So I studied like crazy, since I had an astronomy test and finals are this coming week. I had no time for pleasure reading (which is sad considering all of the books I have that are waiting for me to get to them). All of my blog posts were ones I had saved up before, so all I was doing was working, going to school, and studying.

Luckily, I talked to my friend about it on Thursday and we went and did a GPA calculator thing and figured I could get straight D's and I'd still keep my job. Now my two B's didn't seem all that threatening. So I'm in the middle of Possession by Elana Johnson right now, but I don't have a review for you.

Instead of just hearing how stupid I've been this past week, I thought I'd share my contest entry for an ARC of Kiersten White's Supernaturally. The contest is to look at the book cover and make a fake synopsis for it. Here's the cover:
And here's my entry:
Chloris moves into a small town. There she meets the handsome, mysterious Cornelius and finds herself in love with him. When she discovers what Cornelius really is, the last of the unicorn breeders, Chloris is pulled into his supernatural world. There, Zephyrus the west wind falls in love with her and wants to take her to prom, but she refuses because she and Cornelius already color coordinated. Angered at being in a love triangle, Zephyrus causes the unicorn world's sky to turn brown and the bright yellow flowers to darken. The unicorns begin dying from lack of rainbows and colorful flowers to eat. Now Zephyrus has raised the price to save the unicorns—Chloris must marry him and change her name to Flora because he had a fling with Chloris Leachman a couple decades ago that ended badly. Now, Chloris must either give up her love and her name, or else the unicorns will all die out, and time is running short…

(Note: the fact that I used the name Flora, and that Kiersten White did too in her example synopsis, is kind of coincidence. Flora's just the name in the myth I used as inspiration for it).

Well, with all of the other clever and witty entries I'm hoping to win based off of the random drawing. But it was fun to come up with anyway.
And remember today is the last day to enter my giveaway of a SIGNED copy of The Maze Runner by James Dashner. I'll announce the winner tomorrow.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Top 10 Love Interests

Romance is the spice of novels. And so next in the series of My Top 10, I present my favorite love interests (not necessarily ranked).

1. Peeta Mellark, The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
You know how I've made it clear that in these, I just can't bear ranking these people? Not so with Peeta. He is my number one. I love this boy to death, and not just for the surface layer of his character. I love his contradictions, how he is the most moral character and yet the best liar, how he can be so in love with Katniss but strong enough to put her in her place. I love him for his own special strength and his tender heart And I love his character arc. Yes, I mean all of it, even in Mockingjay. I simply can't put it down how much this character amazes me to no end.

2. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Quick funny bit about this picture: when we watched this part of the movie in my lit class in high school as we studied the book, my teacher paused it and told us, "If anyone ever looks at you like this, either get really excited, or run, because this is the look and means they're in love with you!" Anyway, so Mr. Darcy. I love his aloofness and how he's brought down by Lizzy, but you find out that he's actually a sweetheart and a good person, just shy/proud (depending on how you read him) on the outside (I can relate to him there).

3. Char (Prince Charmont), Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
My first book crush. I think for him, it's his connection with Ella that makes him so great (as the only time he's in the book is when Ella is, as well). He definitely has his flaws as he points out, but his willingness to love and just be what a prince ought to be makes him a memorable love interest.

4. Captain Frederick Wentworth, Persuasion by Jane Austen
He is the most human of all of the Austen men, in my opinion. He is hurt from Anne's breaking off the engagement and acts just as a snubbed man would, but his feelings run deeper than that, and his undeniable love for Anne make him stand out. And who doesn't love a guy in a uniform?

5. Tamani, Wings Series by Aprilynne Pike
Tamani isn't usually the type of love interest that catches me, but ultimately, his loyalty is what drives me in. His duty to Avalon, his loyalty to Laurel, the fact that he waited so long for her and is willing to do anything for her is astounding. He's tough and sly, but also caring when you get to his core.

6. Mr. George Knightley, Emma by Jane Austen
Mr. Knightley is the perfect gentleman. But more than that, he's willing to scold Emma for what she does. I love that he's not afraid to remind her of her folly. He's a kind man, and so mature (then again, he is about sixteen years older than her...)

7. Almanzo Wilder, Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Am I allowed to have real-life guys on my top ten love interests? Well, if not, I don't care! More props to him because he was real. Kind and brave, he was a man to be admired because of how much he respected Laura. He loved her for her strength and didn't disagree when she said that in their vows, she could not say that she would obey him. He's the kind of man we all hope to marry.

8. Westley, The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Most people have only seen the movie, but the movie does a good job of adapting into the book. Now, I don't know why he loves a empty-headed girl like Buttercup (you know what I mean if you've read this book) but that doesn't stop him from making my list. I mean, everything he does for her, plus the fact that he's cunning and a great fighter, as well as hilarious? Totally deserving of my top ten.

9. Gilbert Blythe, Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery
It is the sweetest thing watching Gilbert trying in his boyish ways to win Anne over, and then maturing into a young man. You can't help but cheer him on as he tries to make Anne realize how they're meant to be together. He's smart and good, with a wonderful story arc to him through the series.

10. William, No Shame, No Fear by Ann Turnbull
William makes it in it not just because of how much he loves Susanna, but because the growth he experiences in this book is very admirable. He is able to go from being a wealthy merchant to listening to his heart and coming to a religion which was widely persecuted and still stays strong.

Well, I certainly learned something through all of this. I like the old-fashioned boys. This is just my personal preference, but I think that there is still something underlining all of these heroes which is the fact that when it comes to love interests, he needs more dimensions than just the girl. Of course, I think that the stronger the love for the girl the better (not sappy, just strong), but he needs to be able to stand on his own as a character as well.

Who are some of your favorite love interests? What about them draws you in?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Utah Festival of Books

To quote Rapunzel:
I got there about 10:30 and picked up a sheet of events. As I went through and marked the ones I wanted to attend, I noticed that David Archuleta was there. So my friend is a huge fan of his, and I texted her about it, then realized how mean that was because she was at home in Nevada. That led me to buying a CD (which she said she would pay me back for...I didn't feel that guilty) and later that day had him sign it for her.

Whilst I waited for the events I wanted to attend start, I caught sight of Possession by Elana Johnson. Yeah, you know the one that comes out today? So I grabbed it and got it early. I also picked up a copy of Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George and another copy of Paranormalcy by Kiersten White for my sister's birthday this past Sunday.

I caught James Dashner's presentation and then got a copy of The Maze Runner signed for the give-away. Standing in line, I met Alice Beesley of Writing Snippets and had a nice little writer-to-writer exchange with her. And it was pretty cool, I got my own copies of The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials signed at LTUE back in February and he said I looked familiar. I missed Ann Cannon's presentation, but I did get my copy of Charlotte's Rose signed by her. She just sighed and smiled when she saw it. I told her how I read it back when I was ten or eleven, and there I was, a college student all grown up. Usually I ask authors to only sign the book (I don't sell them or anything, it's just something of mine that I like to do) but she seemed so enthused about it, I let her personalize it to me.

Then I got to hear Kiersten White speak for the first time. She's mentioned before on twitter and such that she speaks fast, but as a Gilmore Girls veteran, I kept up very well. And she's hilarious, it was so much fun hearing her speak. Then I got my copies of Spells and Illusions signed by Aprilynne Pike. Which, if you ever get books signed by her, she gives you a stick-on tattoo and each book has a designated color that she signs in, and their own phrase she puts. Then I waited for Kiersten White to sign my two copies of Paranormalcy. She was so awesome; I'm looking forward to the Supernaturally signing down in San Diego this summer.

Then I braved the David Archuleta fangirls. In the longest line of the day (sad, isn't it?) I waited and snapped pictures to send to my friend in line, and now have the CD stowed away for when I'll see her again in the fall. I went back down and got my copy of Princess of the Midnight Ball signed by Jessica Day George. While I waited in line for that, I told my roommate Emily to go talk to Kiersten White, because I told her she would get along great with her. After I finished with the signing, I met up with Emily who was indeed having a conversation so awesome with Kiersten, she bought a copy of Paranormalcy for herself and had it signed. She started reading it right away, laughing the whole time, and later in that day tried to find her again to talk to her. Kiersten, if you get a stalker...I'm sorry. She loves the book.

We also went to the Women Author's Panel, which was a lot of fun to hear them talk. Last, we saw Elana Johnson speak (well, I did, this was when Emily went off to find Kiersten) and then got my copy of Possession signed.

Now, I was bummed because they said Sara Zarr would be there, but she wasn't, and so my copy of Sweethearts doesn't have a signature on it.

Overall an amazing day! I'm looking forward to next year already. I might just be a BYU traitor and go over to the U of U when they have it in September.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Maze Runner Giveaway!

I've just gotten back from the Utah Festival of Books and in one of the two bags of books I brought back lies a copy of The Maze Runner by James Dashner, which had been voted on by you all for which signed book you wanted me to giveaway. And, as promised, this book has been signed by James Dashner. And he says thank you for wanting his book.

The giveaway is going to be simple. Just fill out this form to enter. Following the blog gives you an extra entry, but isn't needed. And (sorry foreigners) I'm only going stateside, so open only to the U.S. The contest ends a week from today on June 11.

I'll have a post up on Tuesday about the fun goings-on at the festival. Good luck everyone!

Book Review: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Title: Sweethearts
Author: Sara Zarr
Publisher: Little, Brown
Genre: YA (contemporary)
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Why I read it/how I found it: Sara Zarr is coming today to Utah Festival of Books, so I decided to give her a try.

Description: As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also one another's only friend. So when Cameron disappears without warning, Jennifer thinks she's lost the only person who will ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she's popular, happy, and dating, everything "Jennifer" couldn't be---but she still can't shake the memory of her long-lost friend.
When Cameron suddenly reappears, they are both confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken.

Review: Ok, I feel that my opinion will not be helpful to those who enjoy contemporary fiction, because I don't. I know, it's weird, I read the back and think, "Oh, this looks good!" but then upon reading it, I don't usually hate them, but I'm not glued to the situation, either. But I think I enjoyed Sweethearts more than most other contemporary novels I've read. Zarr presented Jennifer/Jenna's internal struggle with who she was excellently, especially by fixating on Jenna's past as Jennifer with such vivid details, and then hurling the reader into her current life as the popular girl. I didn't care much for the ending. I guess I just wanted there to be more to it; although it didn't make me want to hurl the book across the room, either.

Recommendation: Fans for contemporary will probably enjoy this.
Should I buy it?: Eh...again, I'm a tough judge because I don't like contemporary. But it's fairly cheap so if it's your thing, go ahead. Us who are too stuck in fantasy/sci-fi should probably pass though.
Other information: You can find Sara Zarr's website here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award

I'm very excited today because I got my very first blog award from Beverly Stowen McClure. Thank you Beverly for this Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award!
The Rules:
  1. Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
  2. Share 7 random facts about yourself.
  3. Pass the word along to 15 deserving blog buddies.
  4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.
7 Random facts about me:
  1. I'm double-jointed in my right elbow, which means I can do something kinda freaky with it...I'd have to show you for you to get it, though.
  2. I went to the same school K-8.
  3. I'm in love with Starkid.
  4. My first "book" was about mermaids--they're still my favorite mythological creature.
  5. Belle is my favorite Disney princess.
  6. My pinky toes like to cross over their neighbor toe at random times.
  7. I've never been outside of North America, but I'd love to go to Europe someday.
And now the daunting task of choosing just 15 blogs out of all of the awesome ones out there. The blogs that I chose are:
  1. Kimberly Krey
  2. rosewood pencil box
  3. Literally YA
  4. A Still and Quiet Madness
  5. The Story Queen
  6. Better Write Than Wrong
  7. Clarissa Draper
  8. Diane Fordham
  9. Sweets and Scribbles
  10. Plamena Schmidt 
  11. T. C. Mckee
  12. Hanging on to Wonder!
  13. The Ending Unplanned
  14. YA is the wAY
  15. Falling Leaflets
Whew! Now I'll start on letting those bloggers know. Be sure to check out their irresistibly sweet blogs!

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    Tired of Trends

    I got this flair back in 2009 on my Facebook. Because up until this past year, that seemed to be the only books I could find on the YA shelf--vampires. Now, however, I think it would read "Dystopia Books: Or the section formerly known as Young Adult."

    I'm not the only one sick of trends, am I? I know that trends are part of the business (especially in YA) and something that really, none of use can change, but still, as someone who likes multiple genres and focuses, I don't know why everything has to be about the same subject. First, in 2008 vampires came to the scene after the Twilight movie came out. Now that The Hunger Games is big, publishers assume we only want to read dystopia. Ok, I'm not so big on vampires because of a nightmare I had when I was little (a vampire came to eat me in front of my ENTIRE family. He said someone could take my place and he would let me go, but no one did and so he killed me). But I do love paranormal, and I love dystopia, and fantasy and historical and mystery and pretty much everything but contemporary.

    However, get too much of a good thing and it goes stale. Which is bumming me out because a lot of dystopias sound so good and interesting, but it is getting to that point where it's just like...another one? Seriously?

    There are still a few dystopian novels that I want to read and look forward to, but overall, unless for some reason it's compelling, I'm no longer interested in that genre for now.
    How do you feel about trends?